Air Force Bases

Retiring a Minuteman Missile

Removing a Minuteman II missile from its silo at Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota

During the early-to-mid 1960s, 450 Minuteman II ICBMs were deployed in underground silos in Missouri, Montana, and South Dakota. In 1991, President George Bush ordered the retirement of the entire Minuteman II fleet. Between 1993 and 1997, 449 Minuteman II silos were emptied and destroyed (the sole remaining silo and one launch control capsule at Ellsworth Air Force Base are slated to become a museum under the care of the National Park Service).

Following the deactivation of the missile and the removal of its W56 nuclear warhead, the missile is removed from its silo via a specially- designed vehicle. Retired missiles are stored by the Air Force for later use as test vehicles or for use in other military programs. The cost to destroy a Minuteman silo is approximately $189,000 apiece.